A Sister Says Goodbye to a Brother

for Kate Van Viegen

– By J.S. Porter

When Anne Carson lost her brother, she wrote a book about him.  Anne Carson, a Canadian poet, wrote a book called Nox about her dead brother whom she barely knew.  She experienced him in fragments. She didn’t see much of him. He was always away. He sent a few letters. She kept some lines from the letters—the stamps, a few photographs of him when he was younger, remembers a phone call.

Nox contains photographs, ephemera, dictionary definitions, lyric shards, fragments, cutouts, clippings, handwritten jottings and incomplete narratives. The contents sit in a box, open like an accordion, and contain the soul of a dead brother as remembered by a sister. Carson’s book is an elegy, a eulogy, a coffin, a gravesite, a memorial service for her brother, Michael.  While she grieves, she translates the Roman poet Catullus’ elegy for his brother (known as “Catullus 101”) as parallel grief.

Nox, which means night in Latin, is a box with two dead brothers and a dead poet and a dead language inside. Nox is a report on death and a letter to an unknown god who keeps a record of things.

While you hold the book in your hand, hold as well Helen Humphreys’ Nocturne and Terry Ann Carter’s A Crazy Man Thinks He’s Ernest in Paris—more meditations on dead brothers. Do brothers ever write about dead sisters?


Anne Carson has the best bio ever:  “Anne Carson was born in Canada and teaches ancient Greek for a living.”